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House passes $4.5B border aid bill

By Darryl Coote

June 25 (UPI) -- The House passed legislation Tuesday to provide humanitarian assistance for migrants at the southern border as the White House threatened to veto it.

The legislation, known as H.R. 3401, provides $4.5 billion in emergency funds for legal assistance, food, water and medical services, as well support services for unaccompanied children at the U.S.-Mexico border, the House Committee on Appropriations said in a statement.

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The bill passed mostly along party lines 230-195. Four Democrats voted against the bill, including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Rashid Tlaib and Ilhan Omar.

The vote comes amid heightened concern from Democrats over the treatment of migrant children at detention centers.

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Lawyers with Human Rights Watch reported that children were living in unsanitary and unsafe conditions at a Texas short-term facility.

"Tens of thousands of migrants at the border -- many of them children -- are in dire need," House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey said. "And with agencies stretched beyond capacity and nearly out of money, they can't afford for Congress or the [Trump] administration to play games with humanitarian assistance."

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The bill would provide $934.5 million for processing facilities, food, water, sanitary items and medical services and $886 million for reducing the reliance on influx shelters to house children.

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The bill also allocates $9 million to speed up the process to place children with sponsors.

"Congress has a moral responsibility to care for these kids, which is why this funding bill ends the practice of using [Health and Human Services] as an immigration enforcement agency, provides funding for additional field specialists and care management services to expedite safe placements and requires HHS to allow members of Congress oversight visits to facilities holding unaccompanied children without precondition and much more," said Rosa DeLauro, chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies.

Omar, of Minnesota, said in a statement she voted against the bill, demanding that it is time to engage with international aid organizations to provide humanitarian care.

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"Throwing more money at the very organizations committing human rights abuses -- and the very administration directing these human rights abuses -- is not a solution," she said. "This is a humanitarian crisis -- a humanitarian crisis inflicted by our own leadership. It's also a refugee crisis fueled by state violence, corruption and impunity in the Northern Triangle -- one that this administration has only fueled through mass deportation and slashing aid."

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Earlier, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement shared by the House Appropriations Committee that "a vote for this bill today is a vote against the Trump administration's cruel attitude towards children."

On Monday, the White House threatened to veto the bill, saying it "would make our country less safe."

"After ignoring the administration's request for desperately needed funding to address the humanitarian crisis at the border for over a month, and despite the efforts of the House minority, the House majority has put forward a partisan bill that underfunds necessary accounts and seeks to take advantage of the current crisis by inserting policy provisions that would make our country less safe," the White House said in a statement.

The Senate also has a similar bill that could advance this week with a vote at the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The White House said it is disappointed that neither includes funds for Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention while including policy provisions that hinder its enforcement of immigration laws.

"If H.R. 3401 were presented to the president in its current form, his advisers would recommend that he veto it," the statement said.

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